Issue: Landscapes - Ecosystem diversity
This is an issue under the Biodiversity theme of the Data Reporting System.
Ecosystems are the combination of communities of living things with the physical environment in which they live. The living things and the non-living environment interact constantly and in complex ways that change over time. There are many different kinds of ecosystems, such as tropical savanna, wetlands, mountain slopes, the ocean floor, coral reefs and rainforests. Each ecosystem provides many different kinds of habitats for species to live, shelter and feed in.
The functioning of natural ecosystems provides services essential to human survival. For example, forests act as filters for air, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Oceans stabilise climates, with warm currents moderating temperatures on the land masses they pass. Mangroves and seagrass beds are the nurseries for marine species. Other ‘ecosystem services’ provide clean water, control soil erosion, pollution and pests, pollinate plants, and so forth.
Generally speaking, the more diverse an ecosystem, that is, the greater the number of species contributing to it, the healthier and more resilient to pressure the ecosystem is likely to be. Australia’s ecosystems, prior to European settlement were ‘mega-biodiverse’ - the number of species contributing ecosystems was an order of magnitude higher than in most countries. It is reasonable to assume that landscapes which retain their original vegetation cover with a minimum of modification, are likely to retain a higher proportion of their original biodiversity than landscapes that have been highly modified.
- LD-01 The proportion and area of native vegetation and changes over time
It is reasonable to assume that landscapes which retain their original vegetation cover with a minimum of modification, are likely to retain a higher proportion of their original biodiversity than landscapes that have been highly modified. The extent of native vegetation types compared with that existing prior to European settlement indicates the broad range of terrestrial habitats lost and remaining. The indicator can help identify vegetation types at risk from pressures such as increases in the extent of dryland salinity.
- IW-27 Extent of significant wetlands (incl. Ramsar)
Wetland ecosystems are one of the most complex and productive, forming a vital link in the food chain. Although extent of wetlands is to some extent seasonal, long term trends in extent of wetlands is a surrogate indicator for condition of wetlands, and both extent and condition of wetlands are in turn indicative of ecosystem diversity more generally.
- Land - Contributions of land to human life - Ecological services (air, water, climate)
- Coasts and Oceans - Contributions of the coasts and oceans to human life - Ecological services (air, water, climate)
- Biodiversity - Utilisation and value of biodiversity - Contributions of biodiversity to ecological services
- Land - Land condition - Condition of terrestrial species and ecological communities
- Coasts and Oceans - Condition of the ocean and coastal waters - Condition of species, habitats and ecosystems
- Biodiversity - Species, habitats and ecological communities - Condition of freshwater biodiversity